Mathew D. Rose: Now It Is Poland’s Turn

Yves here. Germany is very upset that Poland has voted in a populist, Euroskeptic, anti-austerity government. Germany is also critical of the fact that the new government increased its control over public media. This is the pot calling the kettle black, since as Rose documents in detail, a great deal of reporting on state-controlled media amount to official propaganda.

By Mathew D. Rose, a freelance journalist in Berlin

Oh well, here we go again. Now it’s the Poles who are being recalcitrant and rebelling against Germany’s dictate. And once again it’s the bloody minded voters who are to blame. Poles recently elected the Law and Justice party, providing it with an impressive mandate, being the first party in the post-Communist era to obtain an absolute majority, while routing the neo-liberal, quisling party Civic Platform.

The victorious Law and Justice party is conservative, Catholic, nationalistic, and Eurosceptic. Even worse in the eyes of Germany, the party espouses a Keynesian economic programme, including additional taxation of banks. Law and Justice’s unprecedented electoral support was a reaction to the corruption that is a hallmark of Civic Platform and the general perception that during eight years of Civic Platform government Poland’s economic growth, much in the tradition of the EU, has mainly benefitted a small elite.

Not only has the new government rapidly enacted legislation to increase government control over the constitutional court and the civil service, but it has passed a new media law giving control of Polish public radio and TV to a national media council close to the government, as well as permitting the treasury minister to hire and fire broadcasting chiefs – a role currently in the hands of a media supervisory committee, which was dominated by Civic Platform.

Public media broadcasters are a valuable democratic resource and any infringements upon their autonomy are an egregious blow for citizens, wishing to obtain information free of particular interests. Unfortunately public media is constantly a victim of intervention by the political powers that be. Even the BBC, one of the jewels of British culture, is currently facing a dramatic attack by the Tory government in connection with license fees and its upcoming charter renewal.

The most vociferous critics of the new Polish media laws are the Germans. This is rather odd because German public media broadcasters are completely in the hands of the political parties, better said, of Chancellor Merkels Christian Union and the waning Social Democrats.

Let us start with the major public television broadcaster Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (Second German Television), best known by its monogram ZDF, which is run in conjunction by the German federal states. It is supposed to be independent. A brief glimpse at its governance structures however tells a very different story.

The most powerful governing body of ZDF is the supervisory board, which consists of 14 members. Five of these are determined by the federal states, a sixth by the federal government. In other words they are politicians, currently all from the Christian Union and Social Democratic party. Then there are a further eight “independent” members: one is a retired Social Democratic state minister; a second was a member of the Bundestag for the Christian Union as well as having been a junior minister in the federal government, before he became head of the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations. You might be having difficulties differentiating between the politicians and “independent” members of the supervisory board – because there is none. In fact all fourteen members are determined by the political parties in power.

Just how democratic this system is, was demonstrated in 2009 as the contract of the then chief editor of ZDF, Nikolaus Bender, was up for renewal. Bender was a rather innocuous journalist, some might say a bit stodgy, but he was fair, objective and kept – as best he could – party influence in ZDF at bay. The Christian Union did not appreciate this in the least. For them public media is there to serve the political class. In advance they made known that they were throwing Bender out, which resulted in a massive public uproar in Benndr’s support. This did not faze the supervisory board in the least. Bender’s contract was not renewed. In Germany this is good democratic practice, in Poland it is a transgression of democracy.

A legal suit was filed. Five years later Germany’s Constitutional Court decided in connection with the Bender affair that things had to change at ZDF, as the political parties not only had too much power, but were abusing it, thereby violating the principle of freedom of the press.The public broadcaster however is and remains the domain of the two main German political parties and their cronies. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

The other German public media broadcaster, the ARD, consists of television and radio, Unlike the ZDF, the ARD is decentralised and consists of nine regional members who produce their own programmes as well as for the ARD national channel. In this case each regional member has its own journalistic fiefdom, but the rulers are the same: the political parties and their placemen.

Within the ARD similar structures exist as in the ZDF. For example in ZDF the director general is nominated by the Christian Union and the chief editor by the Social democrats. This is not anchored in any law, just a tacit division of the political spoils. In the ARD there is a similar system, depending on who is in office. Sometimes the parties do not bother with democratic pretensions and simply name one of their own politicians to run things, for example the Christian Social Union in Bavaria, who appointed one of their veteran spokesman as director general for their regional programme. The Social Democrats heaved one of their own into the same post in Saarland. The patronage system does not stop here. The principal postings, and many less important ones, in the ZDF and ARD, are decided by party membership or loyalties, not necessarily by merit. The daughter of Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany’s finance minister, for example, was given a generously remunerated position in the ARD.

Thus many employees in public media place the interests of their political patrons, who provided them with their well paid jobs, ahead of good or objective journalism. Before Bender’s removal from his job at ZDF he claimed in an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel that ZDF was riddled with informants for the political parties, a system he compared to that used by the former secret police of East Germany.

The situation is however much worse than that. Upon my first contact with German public media almost 25 years ago while researching obvious false reporting in the interest of the reigning political parties in Berlin, I was fortunate to stumble upon a critical and upstanding journalist who was very open about the situation in his workplace. He explained the concept of self-censorship, known in German as “Schere im Kopf” (scissors in one’s head). Most Journalists at ARD and ZDF do not need to be told what to write and what not to write. Everyone knows where the limits are and cross the red line at their own risk. There have been numerous cases similar to that of Bender, most of which did not receive any publicity.

How far this sort of self-censorship extends, was recently seen in the events on New Year’s Eve in and around Cologne’s main railway station. Not only did the police (where higher positions are also filled according to party affiliation) hold back the information, but the public media as well, so as not to negatively influence the current policy of the government regarding immigrants. The story only came to light because the dimensions were so enormous and there are private media that have an anti-immigrant agenda and ran the story.

Biased coverage is a trademark of German public media. Reporting of the recent events in Ukraine, Greece and austerity, for example, can only be described as state propaganda. That applies to most of the news programmes ARD and ZDF produce. Of course there are the exceptions, but these are few and far between, their principal value being as an alibi to demonstrate that there is critical reporting by public broadcasters. In the recent past even such programmes have come under increasing pressure from Germany’s political parties. Nowadays they prefer to investigate topics, such as the right wing, populist party Alternative for Germany or neo-Nazis, leaving the mainstream parties relatively unscathed.

Many Germans are obviously fed up with this constant diet of state propaganda in their public media, which are steadily losing their audience. Those viewers and listeners that remain have an average age of around 60, as younger generations seek better information in the internet. German political parties however need these propaganda institutions. Whereas the major German political parties propagate austerity, they keep increasing the mandatory fees that citizens pay to finance ARD and ZDF. This is the money used to report for example about the aggresive intervention by the Law and Justice party in public media in Poland – and the news anchors do not even blush.

This is just the beginning of Poland’s troubles. As the fissiparous nature of the EU is becoming increasingly visible, so is the reaction of Germany against renitent member states. The Poles, who have been invaded, occupied or annexed by the Germans for much of the past 350 years, are not terribly amenable to being dragooned by their Teutonic neighbours. Their natural ally has become the United States, which they see as capable of protecting them from any Russian threat, not Germany and its dysfunctional armed forces. Add to this the increasing self-confidence of the Visegrad group towards Germany and it appears this could turn into a prolonged conflict.

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  1. Swedish Lex

    As I recall, Poland recevies something like 6-8% of its GDP from the EU budget. Germany is a big net contributor, as is Sweden.

    Year after year.

    If the Poles now wish to have “true independence”, so that they can go about their reactionary and xenophboic way of living in splendid isolation, then I suggest that their first point of action should be to say “no thanks” to the EU funding. Unless they do so, they can legitimately be called something pretty nasty.

    Fortunately, there are sane people in Poland too. I sincerely hope that there will be a democratic reversal in Poland soon and that the liberal forces there will be able to take back the initiative.

    With a few more Polands and Hungaries, all depending on the solidarity of the countries they criticize, Sweden will one day have had enough and leave the disintegrating EU club.

    1. vlade

      What I find fascinating was the way how Visegrad countries (Poland, Czechs, Slovaks and to an extent Hungarians) are very strongly opposing UK internal EU migration changes (supporting their large diaspora in the UK), while at the same time being very anti-immigrant and xenophonic on the general EU immigration front.

      One could of course claim that one is within EU and the other is outside EU, but at the same time one could claim that the humanitarian immigrants deserve support more than the economic one, and if Poland refuses to help Syrian economic migrants (because they don’t fit in their culture), why should UK really help Polish economic immigrants (because they stress already stretched social services – and by this I mean like mostly primary schooling and healthcare, as while the benefit scroungers do exists, their prevalence is in general much less than some parts of press would like us to believe).

      1. Swedish Lex

        What also is absurd is that the Poles appear to be willing to compromise with the UK on free movement of persons providing that Poland gets NATO bases……

        The EU is one thing.
        NATO is a totally different thing.

        This does not even qualify as horse trading. Just silly.

        1. vlade

          I don’t know, I think it’s bit of creative thinking. Historically, for Poles (who have been invaded from left and right, and didn’t have a state for hundreds of years being divided between in effect Germany and Russia) security is important. The problem is that so it is for Russians (in whose mind Russia’s border starts really with Belarus, not Russia), and having buffer states is important to them. The ideal state, where the buffer states are neutral, is pretty much impossible (with the exception of Finland), because the potential buffer states are simply not wealthy enough to be credibly neutral (=their politicians are not happy enough with looting locally and are susceptible to bribes from all sides).

      2. Jabawocky

        To understand the EU mindset, citizens of the EU are not understood as migrants, but eu citizens exercising their freedom of movement. Like a New Yorker in LA. This explains why the two groups can be treated so differently.

      3. OIFVet

        What else do you expect? The EU sees the opportunity to replace cheap Eastern European labor with even cheaper middle eastern labor, which is a direct threat to the already crappy economies of the East. And Poland is the go-to economic “success” story of the East, mind you. That’s been the reality of EU expansion: the East exports well-trained but very cheap labor, and imports very cheap Western goods and foods that destroy the local production. It’s not a healthy relationship, and it will only get more toxic if the East’s migrants get squeezed out and forced to head home. Then revolutions become a very real possibility, and in Europe they are always very bloody. It’s not good…

      4. tony

        What’s fascinating? They know what their interests are. Their argument is simple: refugees harm Poland, Polish workers benefit the UK.

        1. vlade

          Well, the utter lack of even pretension of any solidarity? As in, you want into a club to get the benefits, but not to carry the costs?

          I’m not saying it’s not common or rational, but then in normal clubs you (often, especially if you’re really too blatant about it) get kicked out for such behaviour.

          The argument on whether refugees harm or benefit (Chinese and Asian economic migrants of 19th century into the US had culture was very much different from the European ones – heck, Know Nothings even wanted to throw out all the “Dutch” because they were so different, yet overall it worked pretty well in the end), and in the same way whether Polish workers harm or benefit (they may increase GDP, but if it’s impossible to increase the level of social services to keep with the demand – and often it’s not just a question of money – is it a plus?) is anything but simple.

          1. OIFVet

            At least they are not pretending. The EU pretends to be “democratic” club, but Merkel did not put her invitation to a vote. And then there is the little issue of democratic votes that don’t go the EU’s way, forcing a do-over until the voters vote “correctly.” So for all the pretensions to the contrary, the EU is not a club of equals, and the East is tired of being second-class members being forced into a suicide pact.

    2. guest

      The EU Commission publishes figures regarding contributions received from and expenses paid to the EU budget here.

      There is also a line giving the net contribution as % of the Gross National Income. In the case of Poland, the net EU contributions are so far below 3.5% of GNI; they reached 3% only in 2011, 2% in 2009, and were in the 1% range before that.

      In many parts of the EU, “liberal” has been slowly but surely becoming the equivalent of a four-letters word (faster so in Eastern European countries), for all the willful economic and social dismantling, often combined with utter disregard for democracy (witness Greece) that has been going on for decades.

      I do not believe that Sweden will leave the EU in the foreseeable future; Swedes were clever enough not to become prisoners of the Euro, so they are somewhat better cushioned against the vagaries of EU policies than other more “integrated” countries.

      1. Swedish Lex

        The number seems lower than I remembered.

        As I understand, the Polish GDP is ca 600 bn euro. According to this article in the Daily Telegraph (not a 100% source, for sure), Poland a couple of years ago received ca 12 bn:

        Effectively a couple of %.

        What the Poles receives is right under the net German contribution to the EU budget.

        I agree that Sweden will not leave in the foreseeable future. However, if the UK exits more successfully than not and manages to maintain good trade agreements with the EU after exit and if, in parallel, the anti-liberals get stronger also in France (elections 2017 and 2022), then Sweden could prefer to exit. Swedes were appalled to see how most other EU States closed their borders to refugees or simply in practice pushed them northwards to Sweden. The costs, not shared by the other EU States, is in the billions of euro (equivalent).

        And then the Poles say that they only accept “Christian” refugees………

        1. guest

          We agree that Sweden will definitely not be amongst the first countries to leave the EU voluntarily.

          Regarding accepting only Christian asylum seekers: I believe this requirement was actually uttered by the Slovak government. There is a lot of hypocrisy regarding that whole refugee issue, including (especially?) on the German side.

        2. Sensei Mitch

          “the Poles say that they only accept “Christian” refugees………”

          I am not sure I understand the hipocracy of only allowing Christians refugees to a predominantly Christian nation. Especially since there are 30 plus muslim nations that have the means and resources to accept these refugees. Immigration policy needs to consider the health of the society, as we are seeing a sudden, uncontrolled influx of indigent immigrants is not healthy for the society and further does not lend itself to integration to the host society. To the contrary, the immigrants expect the host society to integrate to their social/economic norms.

    3. makedoanmend

      Directed to Swedish Lex:

      I would suggest that your use of Liberal is open to quite a few interpretations. Neo-Liberal is liberal afterall. So liberal, in fact, no one must be excluded from markets. Every individual must, by virtue of such ideological liberalism, partake of the markets in every facit of one’s life whether one wants to or not. In liberal markets all human functions are commodities, including the very notion of self. The individual is subsummed to the markets rather than markets making life easier for all individuals.

      Also you seem to be saying, quite contrary to the initial phases of European integration where wealthier nations thought it prudent to sub the infrastructure of poorer memebers in order to produce local economic stimulus and increase cross border trade, that we are now in a position where net contributers call the shots irregardless of what national voters decide. Democracy much?

      I’ve always been wary of the European project, but not in the UK way. The UK still practices the “exceptionalism” notion of their culture, and the current Tories want their specific brand of neo-Liberal exceptionalism to become the de facto norm. My wariness is the wariness that is expressed in both this article and the comments. Both seem to want to limit the freedom of choice and general freedoms of ordinary citizens across Europe.

      The contradictions inherent of the project are becoming all too apparent.

      1. fajensen

        In my opinion, the European project went through tree stages – the first stage was the one with the regional support – “lets use funds from the core to lift the periphery”. The second is after the project got infested with neo-liberalism – “wages and regulations are at lower levels in the periphery so those factors will attract investment and that investment will lift the periphery” . The third, terminal, stage is Inflation. The periphery was being lifted, however, this increases costs in the periphery to the EU average which goes against core neo-liberal values, the solution was to “If we Never stop expanding, we will never run out of periphery to exploit” – hence the desire to include the entire middle east (and when that scheme failed at least import a good deal of the population) to “keep wages “”competitive””.

    4. OIFVet

      Fortunately, there are sane people in Poland too

      Yep, some get sane after the fact

      Sikorski told Rostowski: “You know that the Polish-U.S. alliance isn’t worth anything.”

      “It is downright harmful, because it creates a false sense of security … Complete bullshit. We’ll get in conflict with the Germans, Russians and we’ll think that everything is super, because we gave the Americans a blow job. Losers. Complete losers.”

      Sikorski got his sanity back a bit late, though. Personally, I think it was the Polish ambassador to the US taking to YouTube to sell his Polish apples to the US public after Poland lost the Russian market due to Merkel’s wise stewardship, that really helped the rise of Polish nationalists. It was very humiliating, what with the nasty comments under the video. So you see, the rise of nationalism is the byproduct of the inane EU. Moreover, the EU is a NATO dependency. It makes sense to practical Polish nationalists to remove a layer of superfluous bureaucracy and deal directly with the real power in Europe: NATO.

      1. Carolinian

        Isn’t NATO synonymous with the US and their worthless backing? One can’t help but recall a previous time when Poland depended on great powers to back them up. Some claim it was Chamberlain’s (foolish?) guarantee to the Poles that led them to go to the mat with Hitler and reject a compromise. The rest as they say is history.

        1. OIFVet

          It is, though I would amend the description thusly: NATO is an instrument to keep Europe dependent upon the US. That’s why some do protest too much whenever the EU and NATO are mentioned in the same sentence. It is yet another of the many contradictions inherent in the EU: the supposed respect for national sovereignty where there is in fact none, and then the fact that the EU itself is not sovereign. And I agree that US/NATO backing is worthless. What wold happen if Turkey and Greece get into a shooting war, a very real possibility? What would happen if Turkey’s wanna-be sultan instigates ethnic troubles in Bulgaria as a way to justify swallowing a chunk of it? Turkish maps for schoolchildren have “mistakenly” included southern Bulgaria and parts of Greece, Syria, Armenia, Georgia, and Iraq as Ottoman Turkish territory for several years now…

    5. Plenue

      Hah, Polish independence. Right up until they prove, yet again, unable to defend themselves, get conquered by someone else and inevitably become a gateway for another attempt at invading Russia.

  2. Clive

    Here in the UK, the public service media broadcaster (the BBC) is now very much part of the problem rather than any sort of solution to the issue of for-profit outlets — which are invariably at best neoliberal biased if not out-and-out right-wing harridans especially if Murdoch controlled — dominating through their financial firepower.

    When it comes to quality of programming, the for-profit corporations beat public service hands down. They can afford to fund a vast slew of high production value original material, much of it, it has to be admitted, is very enjoyable. They have a virtually limitless budget for sports rights — and the money to provide high quality comprehensive coverage of the sports they want to offer.

    Given these advantages, their news operations (which have similarly generous, subsidised, funding) could gain leverage and audience to peddle their almost inevitably business-friendly editorial policies. They can also, in this industry as others, capture the regulator. This can be done via the Revolving Door method and other similar inducements, or, if that fails, they can directly lobby the government itself. So an independent non-commercial public service broadcaster is essential for a properly functioning democracy.

    This is what the BBC used to provide. However, as Matthew rightly notes in his piece, without a strong governing board or similar executive structure who is determinedly independently minded and resistant to governmental influence, the public service broadcaster inevitably finds itself contorting to try and be what the government wants it to be. If you have a right-wing neoliberal government which can successfully change the members of the broadcaster’s governing body and stuff it with cronies then that government can fairly quickly — and semi-permanently — seize control of the public service broadcaster.

    Then it gets worse. Because the public service media outlet can run on brand fumes for a long, long time, you get the apparition of an independent broadcaster operating outside of state control, but in reality it is fully on board with the power elite’s agenda. So long as the broadcaster is reasonably subtle about it, it can go largely un-noticed.

    One way of being subtle is to adopt an editorial policy of “we don’t proffer opinions ‘for’ or ‘against’ any event, we just report the facts”. Which sounds nice, but of course, “facts” can be presented selectively and/or framed in a particular fashion. Another method is “we only report neutral or positive events because giving a negative connotation to how we present reality carries the risk of being biased”. This is even more pernicious because, if the public service broadcaster can’t criticise the government but can only be a “neutral observer” then a government’s actions cannot be shown in a bad light.

    You can see all these elements at work in this article on the BBC’s news website covering Poland. Let’s take these two concluding paragraphs:

    Poland enjoyed eight years of excellent relations with Germany under the previous centre-right Civic Platform led government, says the BBC’s Adam Easton, in Warsaw.

    The new Law and Justice government is much more sceptical of Germany’s intentions and frequently makes allusions to Poland’s losses during the World War Two, our correspondent says.

    This gives every impression of being balanced and rounded coverage. But when you read it carefully, there’s something weird going on with the vocabulary. What, exactly, are excellent “relations” ? How did the previous government’s alleged “centre right” credentials get defined ? And what is meant be “intentions”. It’s like The Ministry of Truth is putting on a play by Maeterlinck.

    1. guest

      In France, the CEOs of France Télévisions (several chains) and Radio France (ditto) shifted from being directly appointed by an independent specialized council (the CSA — Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel), to being appointed directly by the President (in 2008, as requested by Nicolas Sarkozy), to being again appointed by the CSA (since 2013).

      The CSA itself, for all its independence, has its 7 members designed by the President of the Republic (1), the Head of the Parliament (3) and the Senate Chair (3).

      It is well-known in France that the appointment of radio and tv heads, as well as of the various editors-in-chief is motivated primarily by political considerations — making sure that audiovisual mass media support government policies. There are mass replacements and various appointment scandals every time the political majority shifts.

      My feeling is that the Polish party currently in power is simply lacking that unctuous political subtlety to coat the organizational changes with appeals to increased diversity and refreshing personnel structures that were at risk of fossilization.

    2. vlade

      I don’t know, I think BBC original programming (dramas and documentaries – in fact, in documentaries I’d say the other don’t even compete) is superior to most of the UK’s for-profit ones. Say BBC Worldwide had in 2014 higher revenues (1.4bln) than ITV’s non-advertising revenues (sub 1bn). And I personally think that BBCW leaves a lot of money on the table (for example, there’s a lot of expats who use VPNs to watch BBC iPlayer outside UK – indicating that people would pay for the content if just BBC let them)…

      I can’t comment on their news coverage, as while now and then I read a story on BBC news, they are not my go-to place.

      1. Clive

        Both the BBC’s entertainment and factual outputs have been markedly degraded. There’s a few trophy pieces in, mostly, historical costume drama and wildlife and these are much ballyhooed — and it is these which form the backbone of what gets sold on to BBC Worldwide.

        But domestically, news has been hollowed out (regional coverage is a bad joke and internationally there’s a few token gestures in the form of US and Middle East bureaux but it is one-man-and-his dog in Russia, the Far East and Africa while Central and South America are barley mentioned) and reportage strands like “Panorama” have been dumbed down and shortened from 60 to 30 minute formats. Science is embarrassing — it looks like the sort of thing which would have been served up for a K12 audience in the 1970’s and 80’s but now is, apparently, the level which is needed to not put off a “mass audience”. This is all on top of the problem of “we daren’t say anything which really offends whichever government is in power” I mentioned above.

        ITV isn’t the main competitor. It is now Fox’s European outpost Sky which is dominating through its (admittedly unrivalled, because of the budget available) product offer of sports and premium US drama programming. Loathed though I am to say it, if you have to rely on the free-to-air BBC and ITV networks, you might as well not bother because the quality of the programming is simply risible.

        So don’t let the jewels in the crown on BBC Worldwide fool you. They are most definitely cherries picked from a very meagre cake.

      2. JEHR

        What I like about the BBC, having listened to many, many podcasts, is their wide-ranging and in-depth analyses of events in other countries. I listen to “Shakespeare’s Restless World,” “A History of the World in 100 Objects,” History Extra,” Global News Podcast,” Thinking Allowed,” “Four Thought,” Drama of the Week,” Documentaries,” and “Arts & Ideas,” etc.

        I also listen to the CBC for their relatively unbiased reporting but the CBC is being strangled with bad directorship and reduced funding. It seems, then, that around the world the neo-liberals are gradually capturing public broadcasting for their own purposes. It is a sad state of affairs.

        1. vlade

          I’d add The Infinite Monkey Cage to the list for anyone with an interest in science. In general, in the last few years BBC did quite a lot to make hard (physics, maths) science sexy again with the likes of Brian Cox (not the actor ;)), Helen Czerski, Jim Al-Khallili, Marcus du Satoy etc.

        2. Carolinian

          BBC In Our Time, where academics discuss history, science and literature, is a great podcast anyone can download.

        3. OIFVet

          I’ve been watching ‘Blake’s 7’ on YouTube recently. Much constrained by low budget, it was a great sci-fi alternative to Star Trek nonetheless. I loved it in the 1980s, and I still like it today.

      3. Carolinian

        I agree. I’ll take Peaky Blinders over the somnolent Downton Abbey any day. That said, non public Brit tv did bring us the great Doc Martin. I think Clive in the above is talking more about sports programming.

        And to Clive: isn’t the BBC always going on about how the Russians are brainwashed by state tv? Very ironic.

    3. OIFVet

      In Bulgaria, the Bulgarian National Radio removed the “Deconstruction” program from the airwaves on December 17th. “Deconstruction” was the most popular program on BG radio, and its host Peter Volgin won journalist of the year honors three years running. “Deconstruction’s” sin was that it was anti-neoliberal, anti-status quo. It was a mix of serious analyses and satire that lampooned anyone from Bulgarian politicians to NATO bigwigs. It really exposed the absurdity of it all. So several days after Eric Seth Rubin, the new US ambassador to BG, said during the Senate confirmation hearing that his main task was to counteract the majority’s pro-Russia, anti-NATO attitude, “Deconstruction” was taken down following a very short media storm in a teacup against it, led by a few public intellectuals and media personas, all of which are current grantees of the “America for Bulgaria Foundation”. Interesting timing and coincidence, huh? The formal pretext was that “Deconstruction” lacked pluralism, which it did. The problem was that the show which was supposed to counterbalance “Deconstruction” died a quiet death for lack of listeners, i.e. the Bulgarian public was and is sick to death of being fed the same old neoliberal, anti-Russia, pro-NATO claptrap. Big target of the satire was the PM’s constant bragging about how his policies are so well received in the EU (getting smooched by Juncker and Merkel has led to untold number of memes), while the country sinks ever deeper into poverty. The sign-off: “That’s all for now. The best is yet to come, dear compatriots!”, a not very subtle dig at the dullard President comparing him to the propaganda of the communist past.

      So quite the difference in EU treatment of Poland in Bulgaria. One gets slammed for doing the exact same thing the other receives praises for doing: censorship.

  3. vlade

    “Add to this the increasing self-confidence of the Visegrad group towards Germany”
    Visegrad (definitely Czechs and Slovaks, Poles a bit less and Hungary even less so although still quite a bit) have massive dependence on German economy. For example, a majority of Czech trade is with Germany or Slovakia (which is really just a step removed from Germany since it’s generally inputs for other subcontractors who ultimately export to Germany).

    Admittedly, Germany has a dependence on them now as well, but they can shift their factories easier than tied-in subcontractors to Germans can find new markets.

    1. OIFVet

      Might as well call it for what it is: the German Mitteleuropa plan is nothing more than imperialism. It was thus in the 19th century, it is so in 21st century as well.

  4. tgs

    A good article on the current situation in Poland at The Nation,  Regime Change in Poland, Carried Out From Within

    Twice before PiS first came to power, parties aligned with the liberal left secured strong labor support. But by insisting on marketization, privatization, and participation (as a peripheral player) in the global capitalist economy, and disparaging demands for more security, they soon squandered that support, and ended up driving regular workers into the arms of PiS.

    As neo-liberalism continues to fail, I expect to see more nationalistic parties coming to power in Europe.

    1. vladimir

      I think there was also a good article Jacobin , right after the elections in November 2015

      So while some sections of the country’s elite and foreign capital operating in Poland are genuinely worried about the incompetence, paranoia, xenophobia, and vindictiveness of PiS, most can sleep soundly knowing that regardless of playing up welfare state nostalgia, riffing off the antiestablishment parties, and denouncing improper enrichment, the ideological basis of the party lies firmly in the range of right-wing consensus. PiS is, despite its proclamations, part of the force consolidating the transition to neoliberal capitalism in Poland.

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